Friday, January 08, 2010

Forgotten Books: THE YAKUZA -- Leonard Schrader

I read this book 35 years ago, and I remembered it with great fondness. I liked the movie, too. Mitchum is great in it. The cover pictured to the left is on the British edition of the book. As you can see, the author is Leonard Schrader. Paul Schrader and Robert Towne wrote the screenplay for the movie.

This is one of those novelizations that expands a lot on the movie script. It's almost 250 pages long, and the print's small. It's essentially the same story, though. Harry Kilmer (Mitchum in the movie) is a retired p.i. who's asked by an old friend to rescue the friend's daughter, who's been kidnapped by the Yakuza. Kilmer doesn't want to take the job because of things that happened in Japan during the American occupation after WWII, but the old friend convinces him. Kilmer finds the girl and rescuse her almost immediately. End of story, right? Of course not. The trouble is only beginning.

Nobody goes up against the Yakuza and wins, or so they say. They just don't know Kilmer. There's a lot of violence in both book and movie, and also a lot about friendship and honor codes. I think I was originally attracted to the book for those reasons and because of the detailed Tokyo setting.

Reading the book again, I realize that while the story and the emotions still hold up for me (and I'm sure the movie would, too), the writing doesn't. "The rosy-fingered sunset slipped into the dark glove of night." I might have admired that 35 years ago, but now, not so much. There are other stylistic quirks that at the time must have appealed to me. They don't now. But the book held my attention and zipped right along, so I can't complain. I expect that I'd now find the movie superior, however. I wonder if it's on DVD.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow I never heard of this movie. Thanks, Bill. Hope you had a great holiday.

George said...

The Yakuza ~ Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, and Herb Edelman (DVD - 2007) is on sale at AMAZON for $5.79!

Anonymous said...

Bill, THE YAKUSA is for sale for under $6 on Amazon or you can rent or download it from Netflix if you are a member. Well worth it either way you go.

Leonard gets a story credit on the movie. I've heard he was irritated that he didn't get a screenwriting credit as well, but that's just hearsay.


Howard said...

As mentioned, it's on DVD, and I picked it up and watched it last month. Thought the movie was great, though I had just recently heard of it.

Anonymous said...

I never read the book but I remember the movie fondly.

You generally can't go wrong with Mitchum.

Next month: THUNDER ROAD?


Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the DVD info, guys. I'll check it out. Jeff, you probably know that Bill Gault wrote a novel called THUNDER ROAD, but it had nothing to do with the movie. Probably there wasn't a tie-in novel.

Evan Lewis said...

Gault's Thunder Road was a kids book, right? Along with Dirt Track Summer and a whole mess of other sports books.

Bill Crider said...

You are correct, sir!

Stephen B. said... and Amazon should have them - Hmm, this one will put hair on your chest, the review said.

It was just reissued past couple of years!